...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Where's the Love? Inchmurrin 15 year old 1996 Signatory

All right.  I was just teasing you with Mannochmore and Tullibardine.  It's time to strap on a pair of waders in order to stagger through Loch Lomond.

Loch Lomond does not produce award-winning single malts.  They rarely release something that gets any positive attention.  I've seen reviewers give the distillery some leeway, almost as if Loch Lomond is handicapped, due to its unique still setup.  But Loch Lomond still brings millions of liters of whisky to the market annually so there's no need to apologize for the whisky nor apologize for a scathing review.

But what about those stills?  They really are the most interesting aspect of the distillery.  I had to read and compare several sources in order to get what I think is an accurate list of stills, ultimately going with Charlie MacLean's word (via Whiskypedia) because he's a movie star.  Loch Lomond has two pairs of pot stills, both with rectifying heads which allow them to create several varieties of new make.  There are also two more pot still pairs without rectifying heads.  There's a Coffey still that's utilized to make a single malt, which the SWA doesn't care for.  And finally there's a distillery within the distillery that has another Coffey still which is utilized for grain whisky.  Thus we get such gems as Inchmurrin, Inchmoan, Inchfad, Croftengea, Craiglodge, Rosdhu, Glen Douglas, GlenShiel, and Loch Lomond all from one place.

The most frequently bottled of the malt types is Inchmurrin.  And the independent bottler with the most (released) casks of Inchmurrin is Signatory.  So, here today is a Signatory-bottled Inchmurrin.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't have preconceptions going into the two tastings this week.  I've previously had one palatable Siggy Inchmurrin.  But on the flip side there was the bizarre peated Loch Lomond and the utterly disgusting Inchmoan I drank last year.  At least these tastings shouldn't be boring...

Distillery: Loch Lomond
Brand: Inchmurrin
Owner: Loch Lomond Distillery Company
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Region: Highlands (Western)
Type: Single Malt
Age: 15 years (November 18, 1996 to May 23, 2012)
Maturation: Refill butt
Cask number28
Limited bottling: 599
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
(Sample purchased from Master of Malt by Tetris and donated to D4P. Thank you!)

Its color is a yellowed amber.  Hot cereal/porridge jumps out first in the nose, followed by hints of pencil graphite, cinnamon, nectarines, and pineapple.  It feels very new make-ish, but then a coconut creme thing pops up every now and then.  But the largest consistent note that I find is that of margarine on Saltines.  Kristen found notes of baked things and florals, but also some chemicals when she sniffed closer.  That chemical note reads more like garbage to my nose.  Brief downwind from garbage, but still garbage.  The palate has the hot cereal character, but also a lot of sweetness and a bracing bitterness.  There are also notes of band aids, basil, creamy nutty marzipan, and cardboard box.  It all gets much sweeter with time.  The finish is tangier than the rest.  It's sweet, grainy, and brief.

WITH WATER (a little below 40%abv)
The nose is almost of a grain whisky: caramel, mild grains, coconut, hay, and white fruit.  The palate is sweeter, smokier, and something vaguely chemical.  The finish is sweet and mild.

This must have been a 37th-fill butt.  Most of the time the whisky feels like it's barely legal, which isn't necessarily bad, especially since this bottle apparently sold for €32 two years ago.  If it could ditch the rotten and chemical notes then it would be a decent whisky.  Though brief those notes may be, they do prove to be a turn off to me, and I'm someone who loves weird whisky.

If you have a bottle of this -- and somehow they sold through most or all of these 599 bottles -- then perhaps airing it out a bit will help rid the whisky of its problems.  If that does work, then I can recommend this whisky to Tobermory fans and those who like naked whiskies.  If it doesn't work, I think it's because those rougher elements may be part of Loch Lomond's malt character.  So, like with most Loch Lomond whiskies, approach cautiously.

Availability - Perhaps at some specialty retailers on the European continent?
Pricing - probably in the $50-$60 range
Rating - 74

Friday, June 26, 2015

WTF Is This? Faultline Straight Bourbon Whiskey

I'll start with the obvious then work my way back into the details.

"Faultline" is an exclusive brand created by K&L Wine and Spirits.  Rums, brandies, tequilas, and whiskies have been bottled and released under this label and sold only through K&L.  "Straight" means that the liquid within was matured for longer than two years in oak barrels; and since there's no age statement on the label, that means the liquid was actually matured for longer than four years.  "Bourbon Whiskey" means that the mashbill was at least 51% corn and the resulting spirit was aged in new American oak barrels.

But K&L doesn't distill its own spirit so it's time for more info...

Luckily, K&L is very open about the contents of this bottle.  As per David Driscoll's notes, this bourbon was blended by John Little of Smooth Ambler using some of Ambler's stock of MGP-distilled bourbon.  There's a mix of 10-year-old bourbon using MGP's lower rye mashbill and 7-year-old high-rye bourbon.  They bottled it at 50%abv and K&L has been selling it for $39.99 for almost two years.

So yes, like last week's WTF, Homestead, this is another MGP bourbon.  But while the contents of last week's bourbon are shrouded in (unnecessary?) mystery, the Faultline's makeup was better disclosed, thus I know WTF I'm drinking here.  Are they the same whiskey though?  I compared my sample of Faultline's straight bourbon with Homestead Bourbon reduced to 50%abv.

Brand: Faultline
Owner: K&L Wine and Spirits
RegionDistilled in Lawrenceburg, Indiana
Type: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: blend of 10-year-old and 7-year-old bourbons
Alcohol by volume: 50%
(Sample from swap with Florin)

It has a maple syrup color with some rosy highlights.  The nose is very pretty.  Lots of caramel and hard candies.  Maraschino cherries, cloves, and strawberry popsicles.  A citrus-estery perfume.  Charred US oak and (maybe?) sandalwood.  It gets oakier with time, bringing up some furniture polish and maple syrup.  Lots of cherry lollipops in the palate.  Orange zest and oaky caramel.  Some bright spice notes like cinnamon, peppercorns, and cardamom.  A hint of ripe cantaloupe appears just before the spicy caramel takes over.  A long finish.  Woody, sugary, hints of MGP rye spice.  A citrus note grows with time.

The nose simplifies.  Caramel and oak pulp.  Oranges and rye.  The palate is oranges, cherries, caramel, and wood spice.  Those oranges carry over into the sugary and charred finish.


HOMESTEAD BOURBON reduced to 50%abv
The nose starts off with ethyl and paint fumes.  Dove soap, lemon cleaner, vanilla, and orange oil.  It picks up some maple candy with time in the glass.  The palate moves quickly from sweet to bitter to oaky then back to bitter.  Stale peanuts and rye new make.  The finish is made up of sugar, peanut dust, tree bark, soap, and ammonia.

WTF is Faultline Straight Bourbon Whiskey?  Good MGP bourbon is WTF it is.  Homestead at 50%abv is a turd compared to it.  The cask selection and knowledge about when/what to bottle was far superior with Faultline.  I really don't have anything nice to say about the Homestead, so I'll move on.

Faultline is a good tasty drinker at its bottling strength, so I don't recommend adding water.  There's plenty of spice for rye fans and a surprising amount of fruit in the mix too.  Sku liked it, as did Andy over at LAWS.  Even Monsieur MAO liked it, and I'll be damned if he didn't steal my rating.

Its price is competitive, $10-$20 cheaper than the Homestead, cheaper than Smooth Ambler's own 7- and 10-year old bourbons, and right between the prices of WT Rare Breed and Russell's Reserve 10yo.  I kinda wish I'd tried this two years ago when it first came it out.  K&L appears to be getting towards the end of its stash and may be partnering with St. George Spirits for a new batch of bourbon soon.

Availability - K&L Wines
Pricing - $39.99
Rating - 85

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Where's the Love? Tullibardine 1993 (46%abv US Edition)

And here is the Aged Oak Edition's sparring partner.  Yes, more Tullibardine.  Some of you American folks may still see this particular whisky sitting on the shelves selling for a very reasonable price.  But most of you have passed it up and will continue to pass it up.  Hell, I used to see old green-bottle Cadenhead dusties of Tullibardine selling for under $100 and yet I never even considered considering lifting the bottle off the shelf.

Thanks to a generous member of the LAWS crew, I was able to try the Tullibardine 1962 vintage.  48 years old, and something Jim Murray soiled himself over, the whisky was......okay.  If it was 1/4th its age and 1/10th its price, I'd happily recommend it because it sort of drank like something that was 1/4th its age and 1/10th its price.  Its smoothness (sorry, I had to use THAT word) made for pleasant drinking, and one could perhaps thank its age for that.  But that very age also cut out whatever lively zip a 12 year old single malt would exhibit.  Thanks to Jim Murray's pronouncement the 48yo mostly sold out a few years ago.  But there are a few bottles still floating about.  So if you're in the market for a sleepy 48-year-old officially bottled single malt that costs less than a Kia, keep lookout for the '62 at $800.  Or you can spend your money wisely.

Anyway, this review has nothing to do with the 1962.  I just wanted to say that 99.99% of the whisky community isn't missing anything having not tried the oldie.  Let's see what we missed with the 1993.

Distillery: Tullibardine
Ownership: Tullibardine Distillery Ltd (now Picard Vins & Spiritueux)
Distillation Year: 1993
Distilled by: White & Mackay
Age: ???
Maturation: probably ex-bourbon casks
Region: Mid-Highlands
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chill filtered? ???
Caramel Coloring? probably not much
(Thank you to Florin (a prince) for the sample.)

Keep in mind that this was the US release of the '93.  It was bottled at 46%abv, but not finished in wine casks.  I'm unsure of its bottling date.  If I figure that out, then I'll update the above info.

The color is amber.  The nose leads with citron candles, peaches, and Three Musketeers chocolate bars.  Lots of grains, leafy.  The apples here are riper than those in the Aged Oak Edition.  With time, it picks up burnt bread, tree bark, and honeydew notes.  The palate starts off with a simple combo of lemon, caramel, and sugar.  Then there are hints of baking chocolate, honey, and rose petals.  With time a cardboard note opens and expands, countered by a wormwoody bitter note.  The finish is spicier and holds onto the honey note.  Also, notebook paper.

WITH WATER (~40%abv)
The nose gets weird.  Very rubbery.  Sunscreen, burnt raisins, burnt hair, and notebook paper (again).  A hint of caramel.  The palate is odd too.  Rubbery fruits, bitter carrot cake, burnt soap, and burnt vanilla.  Yes, some of those things aren't things, but there it is.  The finish is bitter and soapy.  Cardboard and generic caramel.  Thankfully it's all brief.

So, obviously, don't add water.  It's probably a good idea that this was bottled at 46%abv.  I'll focus on the neat serving.  The nose is easily the best part.  It gets a little quirky as it oxidizes but remains pretty solid.  I have little complaint about the palate until the cardboard arrives.  The finish is mild and short.

Before the Tullibardine Taste Off, I had expected I would ridicule the Aged Oak and trumpet this one.  Happy to find them both grain-forward, I actually wound up liking the younger (and lower abv) whisky much more.  While I can't give a rave review to either, I was intrigued enough that I'll keep a lookout in case any of Tulli's current non-finished whiskies end up in a clearance pile.  I'd very much like to try the 20 or 25 year old, but certainly not at their current prices.

Availability - Some specialty US retailers still have a few
Pricing - $50-$70
Rating - 76 (don't add water)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Where's the Love? Tullibardine Aged Oak Edition

Tullibardine.  Yep, Tullibardine.  Upon seeing the subject heading of this post, most folks are either going to skip reading this one altogether or glance down at the final score and move on.  But that's sort of the point of this series.  This isn't about Kavalan or Ardbeg or Stitzel Weller.  It's about the distilleries that receive little to no positivity or attention from whisky fans.

Before doing this tasting I didn't know much about Tullibardine other than their headache-inducing ownership history.  See Malt Madness's recap for the who's who's who what when.  And I knew they used to sell their White & Mackay-distilled stuff using vintages rather than age statements, and those bottlings used to sell for very reasonable prices.  Or rather they didn't actually sell.

Two years ago, the distillery's newest ownership decided to revamp its brand in order to catch some of that big scotch money.  So they removed the vintages.  And released a slew of NAS bottlings with different wine finishes.  And increased the prices significantly.  They did release a 20 and 25 year old, but priced them highly as well.  In order to make their brand "luxurious", they gave their products big price tags without offering anything that couldn't be had elsewhere for less (aka The Dalmore Configuration).  Thanks to that maneuver, you can now buy two Glenfarclas 25s for the price of one Tullibardine 25 in the US.  Good luck with that, y'all.

I bought this mini of Tullibardine Aged Oak Edition thinking it was one of these new NASes, when in fact it was one of their old NASes.  When Tullibardine Distillery Ltd (aka the folks who released the bottles with vintages) wanted to put out a single malt containing only their spirit, they went the NAS direction rather than calling it a 7-year-old.

I had also thought the "Aged Oak" nomenclature was a bit of unintended comedy.  But after I read the bottle's back label and actually drank the liquid, I realized the name wasn't referring to the fact that their whisky (like all Scotch whisky) was aged in oak, but that these casks were actually older oak casks.  Or to put it another way, very-very-refill ex-bourbon casks.

Distillery: Tullibardine
Ownership: Tullibardine Distillery Ltd (now Picard Vins & Spiritueux)
Age: NAS, but likely 7 years or younger
Maturation: likely refill ex-bourbon casks
Region: Mid-Highlands
Bottled: 2011
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chill filtered? No
Caramel Coloring? probably not much
(Mini was purchased by yours truly)

The color is a very light amber.  The nose begins and ends with barley.  At the start there's also some pencil shavings and graphite along with something that seems like a light peating.  Then apples and a hint of marshmallows.  Light jasmine and rose-like esters meet up with subtle butter and caramel notes.  Eventually it picks up some lemon zest.  Wow, the palate is really malty.  Lots of roasted grains and mocha.  Soft peeps of bitterness and peppery spice.  But otherwise it's all barley.  Still malty in the finish.  Smaller notes of toasted marshmallows, black pepper, and vanilla fade in and out.

WITH WATER (~35%abv)
More barley in the nose.  Dried leaves, marshmallows, vinyl, and unripe pears.  No peat.  The palate is basically the same: roasty and malty with hints of pepper and herbal bitterness.  The finish gets a little bitterer and cardboardy. Otherwise, it's malt and sugar.

This surprised me.  I enjoyed the bushels and bushels of barley.  It felt crisp and about as refreshing as a whisky can be, a summer malt.  There's little complexity and it doesn't take water well, but I rarely add water to a 40%abv whisky anyway.

I could not disagree more with Serge's comment that this is not a whisky for malt geeks.  The whisky is all malt.  One couldn't possibly squeeze more barley into it.  It's a shame that it has been discontinued (replaced by an NAS "Sovereign" aged in first-fill ex-bourbon casks).  "Aged Oak" would have fit into the nice simple starter-priced tier with Glenfiddich 12yo and Speyburn 10yo.  Unfortunately its US price tended to float around the $40s, which may have helped kill it off.  I don't think it's worth that much, but if I found it in the mid $20s then I'd be happy to get it.

Availability - Much easier to find on the European continent where it's also cheaper
Pricing - mid $40s in The States, $25-$35 in Europe
Rating - 81

Friday, June 19, 2015

WTF Is This? Homestead Bourbon

Welcome to another new series, Whisk(e)y Thrillin' Friday!  That's WTF stands for, right?  Each Friday for the next (maybe) nine weeks I'll post about a whisk(e)y whose origin is either not directly stated or is a general mystery.  Or maybe it has story attached or perhaps I won't even be able to tell you WTF is up with the WTF whisky.  I'll lead off with Homestead Bourbon.

There are two words one will not find on the front of Homestead Bourbon's fashionable bottle: Kentucky and Straight.  Firstly, that's because its spirit was not distilled in Kentucky.  The non-distilling producer (NDP) Strong Spirits helpfully and legally lists that the bourbon was distilled in Indiana here:

So it's from the MGP whiskey factory in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.  MGP distills millions of liters of spirit for NDPs like Strong Spirits, and in the process has been the birthplace of some very reliable, even gorgeous, whiskies.  So far so good.

But what about the missing "Straight" notation?  A producer cannot call its bourbon straight if it has spent less than two years in the barrel or if there are flavoring additives applied.  Or technically, a producer can choose to not list that its bourbon has passed those standards.  According to this Straightbourbon discussion, Chuck Cowdery says that's the spin Strong Spirits is taking.  Strong claims the bourbon "is in fact 4 years old" and, my faves, "We thought long and hard about using the term Straight and decided that the term technically only means the bourbon is over 2 years old. Because we wanted our brand to be modern (a bit minimal) we also were very specific in the message on the bottle and since we want to promote the fact that our bourbon is higher proof (as close as we can get to going from the barrel to the bottle) we decided to put the idea of barrel proof on the bottle."

Uh-huh.  It's a $50 bourbon.  At half that price one can find bourbons that have "the idea of barrel proof", bourbons that also "promote" the fact that they're Straight Bourbons by listing the word "straight" on the label.  Strong Spirits goes easy on their bottle's text, utilizing the space to print their tag line, "Stake Your Claim".  "Stake Your Claim" shouts FAUX-INSPIRATIONAL MARKETING BLURB and doesn't mean much out of context -- I would have preferred "Claim Your Steak" -- meanwhile "Straight Bourbon Whiskey" holds actual weight in and out of context......unless you can't legally use the S word because the whisky doesn't in fact meet those standards.

Okay, I had to place a hard return there because it's time to focus on the whiskey itself.  Last February, Florin (a prince) poured me some Homestead from the top of his bottle.  I found it drinkable.  He kindly let me have a 4 ounce sample.  I found that sample HOT but drinkable as well.  I must have mentioned this because he gave me the rest of the same bottle two weeks ago.  Woo-hoo!, right?  Well, I've been through seven more ounces and it is not drinkable.  Consuming it pains me.

When I prepared to take official notes on the bottle, I suddenly realized that I still had 2 ounces left of that original drinkable sample from higher up the bottle.  Would I be able to determine what the hell I was talking about four months ago...

Brand: Homestead
Owner: Strong Spirits
RegionBardstown, Kentucky (Distilled in Lawrenceburg, Indiana)
Type: Bourbon Whiskey
Age: ???
Alcohol by volume: 56.65%

The color is dark gold.  The nose begins all caramel corn and peanuts (yet not Cracker Jack). It's slightly beefy and has some rye seeds.  Cream soda, baked banana, and classic Old Spice aftershave.  It also has a slight gaseous and varnish(eous) edge to it.  Mild heat on the palate.  Plain at first. A moderate level of corn sweetness meets a hint of rye spice and a nudge of white vinegar.  The rye element expands with time, getting very peppery.  Soon lots of wood notes (like actual pulp) enter.  The finish is mostly heat.  A little sweetness, some oak, lots of banana.

Comments: Yeah, it's drinkable, but urine is drinkable (allegedly).  I may have overestimated its quality four months ago, but it's okay.  It also stands its ground against ice pretty well.  Not something I'd buy at its price, nor half its price, but not something I'd dump down the sink.  Grading this on its own, I'd give it a 72.

The nose is comparatively muted, grassier, and mintier at first.  There's the peanut note.  Then the caramel corn one. More root beer than cream soda.  Maybe some hints of oranges and milk chocolate.  But then there's the ethyl.  Ethyl grows to be a big ol' gal, almost taking over the show.  The palate:  Heat.  Burning.  Then sugar.  Grains.  It's lightly nutty and rye-ish (again pepper).  Bitter green oak stuff.  The finish is very sweet and tannic.  Hot bitter barrel water.

Comments: It also makes for a poor highball, unless you're using it as an Angostura delivery system.  It also destroyed three different bourbon blends that I tried to make from it.  Grading this on its own, I'd give it a 61.

Final Verdict: This is my first experience with a whisk(e)y that closed up (and got hotter) the further I got into the bottle.  It's really a broken bourbon at this point.  And "at this point" I mean perhaps two-thirds of the bottle were unapproachable.  Thus I'm going to weight the latter score more than the former even though the former is itself no great shakes.  I'm not sure if the problem was from weird barrels or small barrels or bourbon that was in fact younger than two years.  While I am not a bourbon expert, I'd venture to say that this cake wasn't done baking when it was pulled.  Perhaps some more time would have helped?

Availability - CA, IL, MN, NY, though Cali seems to have the highest prices
Pricing - $40-$58
Rating - 65  (Great glass bottle, though. You could really stake your claim with that thing.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Where's the Love? Mannochmore 15 year old 1984 Mackillop's Choice

Here is Mannochmore Exhibit B.  I tried it alongside yesterday's 12yo Blackadder.  They are two very different whiskies.  This one actually hews closer to--

But first some Mannochmore trivia.  The distillery sits right inside Glenlossie Distillery's backyard.  And though it was built almost one hundred years after Glenlossie its production capacity is almost twice as large.  The two distilleries used to share the same crew, but now each have their own.  According to Malt Madness, Mannochmore uses lightly peated Optic and Chariot barley purchased from Castle Head Maltings.  And, per Charlie Maclean's Whiskypedia, the distillery was originally built to produce malt for the growing Haig blends back in the '70s.  Though I don't know if it still goes into Haig's whiskies, I do know that it's almost entirely going into blends of some kind.

It also went into a single malt known as Loch Dhu. But this is nothing like Loch Dhu. It's more like--

Distillery: Mannochmore
Owner: Diageo
Independent Bottler: Mackillop's Choice
Region: Speyside (Lossie)
Type: Single Malt
Age: 15 years (October 25, 1984 to October 1999)
Maturation: ex-sherry (I assume)
Cask number3696
Alcohol by Volume: 60.7%

The color is reddish gold.  The nose starts with dusty sherry, blood oranges, and raspberries.  New tires, fired paper caps, and a bundle of peat moss.  The sulfur grows and......I really like it.  It encounters loquats, sweet tea, sea salt taffy, mesquite barbecue, and dark chocolate, complimenting all of them.  After some time in the glass, the nose develops Willet Rye-style spicy notes like cinnamon bark and whole cloves.  The palate is intensely focused with a dense mouthfeel.  Prunes, carob, and loads of grape jam.  A subtle bitterness keeps the sweetness in check.  A little smoke encircles the sulfur.  Smoked PX in the finish.  Dark chocolate with sea salt and raspberries.  Struck matches put out in grape jam.

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
The sulfur remains in the nose where it joins moss, cherries, lemonade, plums, and fresh cut grass.   The whisky almost becomes port-ish.  Or if you'll pardon the conceit: The waiter lights your table candle with a match then delivers a ramekin of toffee pudding with lemon zest and a glass of port to your table in a peat bog.  The palate is grassy, maybe more like hay.  Salt and malt.   Lots of sweet sherry.  Cigarettes, grapefruit, Angostura bitters, menthol.  The tart smoky finish still has those prunes, dark chocolate, and bitters.  Grass, cucumbers, salt, and menthol.

100 minutes in the glass.  Beginning to end, fucking dynamite.

No joke, this beats most of the sherried Glendronach I've tried.  Had I done it blind, I would have guessed this was a sulfured 'Dronach anyway.  And older than 15 years.  Speaking of the stuff, this is the best sulfur I've experienced.  It works so well that I think this whisky would have been much lesser without it.  While one would think sulfur would cast a shadow over the proceedings, it does no such thing.  It works with the all of the other elements in tune.

When I scheduled this review, I was worried this sample would have been lifeless.  It spent almost as many years in the bottle as it did in the cask, then it was poured into a sample bottle and sat in my stash for almost two years.  Not only was it not lifeless, but holy crap.

Yes, this was bottled in 1999.  And yeah, someone in Germany was selling it for €400+ not too long ago.  But this made me a believer.  I shall no longer cast a stink eye at a Mannochmore.  In fact, I will keep a non-stink eye open for a well-sherried Mannochmore in the future.  There's the love.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 92 (note: sulfur)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Where's the Love? Mannochmore 12 year old 1999 Blackadder Raw Cask #5400

For the next three weeks, I'll be doing a mini-series called "Where's the Love?"  I have selected three distilleries that are never mentioned by whisky gods (or geeks) as being amongst the great ones.  Or even the good ones.  Each week, I'll focus on one of these distilleries utilizing the HUGE SAMPLE SIZE of two whiskies in determining if there's something to be enjoyed in its products or if it has earned its unfavorable reputation.

I love saying "Mannochmore".  Roll the 'r' at the end slightly and you'll feel like a real Scot or a least a real Tolkein Troll.  Mannochmore's honor may have been forever sullied by the Diageo product fart called Loch Dhu.  The Dhu is considered by many to be one of the worst whiskies (if not the worst whisky) ever to be bottled, so bad that it's sort of a right of passage in come circles.  The real debate may be: is it "Plan 9 From Outer Space" bad or "Manos, Hands of Fate" bad?  I'm on Team Plan 9.

The thing is, Loch Dhu is only one Mannochmore out of the 150-200 Mannochmores (remember, roll the 'r') to have been bottled.  Ninety-seven percent of those whiskies were bottled by independent companies, so there is probably a hell of a lot of variation out there.  And consider, Loch Dhu's horror is derived from the buttload of e150a the producers dumped into it, and also perhaps the garbage cans used to age the spirit.

Today's version of Mannochmore comes to us via the indie bottler Blackadder, who kindly packaged it at cask strength and without colorant.  And since this is one of their "raw casks", every bottle includes a carpet of black whisky glitter at the bottom.  I received this sample via a swap with Florin (a prince) over two years ago.

Distillery: Mannochmore
Owner: Diageo
Independent Bottler: Blackadder (Raw Cask)
Region: Speyside (Lossie)
Type: Single Malt
Age: 12 years (April 21, 1999 to November 2011)
Maturation: "Oak cask" (for reals!)
Cask number5400
Limited bottling: 304
Alcohol by Volume: 60.6%

The whisky is a little murky already, before water is added.  It's piss-colored with a green tint.  Plenty of barrel schmutz was included by the generous Florin (a prince).  The nose begins with whole wheat toast and butter, lemons, coconut, and talcum powder.  It does get a little eccentric at times, hopping between blossoms, burnt milk, camphor, pears, ginger, and hand soap.  The palate is hot, as can be expected at this age and ABV.  It's lightly candied, with orange peel and vanilla bean.  Hell, forget the "lightly" part.  It gets intensely sugary and tart after a few minutes.  Later, notes of whipped cream, wood smoke, and limeade emerge.  Lots of grains (wheat, barley, rye) in the finish, along with the whipped cream and vanilla. It suddenly switches to a second gear, revealing sugar, pears, apples, wood smoke, and limes.

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
The nose leads with a combo of camphor, lemons, and gasoline.  Then talcum powder, those floral esters, cream of wheat, and that farty smell ripe strawberries sometimes get.  The palate has completely changed, and the texture has thickened.  There's honeydew, mango, and malt up front.  Then burnt sugar, coffee grounds, and Bowmore lavender (no soap).  The finish is bubblegummy, like "tropical fruit"-flavored gum.  There's a light bitterness as well, likely connected to the coffee grounds note.

Yes, there are quirky notes in the mix, but I enjoyed this whisky.  I may not hurry out to buy a bottle, but I'd be happy to recommend it to adventurous palates.  Those of you in that category probably already anticipate a Blackadder Raw Cask putting up a fight.  The smoky notes may be more akin to sulfur than peat and the spirit is indeed rather raw as a whole.  But, again, it's drinkable, especially as the palate blooms with added water.  I think the lowered ABV may hint at the fruits some say are found in the official Flora & Fauna version.

This is at times a weird whisky, but it can still be loved if it found the right home.  And aside from the coffee grounds thing, it isn't even remotely related to Loch Dhu.  Tomorrow's Mannochmore comes from a different time and a different cask...

For today's Mannochmore:
Availability - Happy hunting!
Pricing - winesearcher shows two European retailers selling it in the $80s
Rating - 80

Friday, June 12, 2015

Single Malt Report: Glendronach 13 year old 1990 Whisky Galore (Duncan Taylor)

Whisky Galore, a now mostly silent Duncan Taylor brand, used to bottle a number of single malts with a solid presentation: 46%abv, non-chillfiltered, and uncolored.  I believe they may have done a few single cask releases as well.  Usually their whiskies are very light in color, allowing one to see Glendronach and Macallan in their non-sherried amber glory.  I've only physically beheld their bottles in one store, though there may be a handful of other shops that still have Galore bottles lingering around from 10+ years ago.  When I saw this bottle of Glendronach, with its urine shade and generic label, I knew it was meant for me:

I'm ending this week's series with this whisky because it hews closest to my intent to search out nearly naked Glendronach spirit.  Tuesday's and Wednesday's single casks were loaded with U.S. oak.  Thursday's had refill sherry and new American oak.  This one is free of those trappings, so flaunt it, Glendronach!

Distillery: GlenDronach
Ownership: BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd
Bottler: Duncan Taylor
Brand: Whisky Galore  (perhaps inspired by the film?)
Age: 13 years
Distilled: 1990
Bottled: 2003
Maturation: "oak casks", probably refill ex-bourbon casks
Region: Eastern Highlands (on the edge of Speyside)
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chill filtered? No
Caramel Coloring? No
(Review from my own bottle, just above the halfway point)

Its color is light gold, the lightest of the whiskies this week.  The nose begins with apple juice and soil.  Underneath that is a cocktail of anise, mint leaves, and lemons.  There's a forest floor with dried leaves (reminiscent of early Kilkerran WIPs) and new rose petals.  After 20 minutes, small notes of white rye spirit, dried coriander, and strawberry jam appear.  The palate is a little bitter, a little dirty, a little lean, and a little austere (I can use that word once a week, right?).  It takes a few minutes for it to open up.  Once it does there are limes up front, black pepper in the back, a bunch of barley in the middle, and a little simple syrup just underneath.  After 20 minutes in the glass, the whisky picks up hints of vanilla and tar.  Though it gets a little tarter, it also picks up some brown sugar.  The finish is pretty long, considering the age and strength, and very straightforward.  A mildly sweet orange syrup with toasted smoked almonds and peppercorns.

WITH WATER (~40%abv)
At first the nose has been neutralized.  Gradually, lemons and limes and those rose petals appear.  That's countered by some industrial notes, like polyester and engine grease.  With time, notes of moss, dandelions, and canned peaches arise.  The palate gets bitterer, sharp and peppery.  Very lean and raw stuff.  Some tart lime, a few flowers, and confectioner's sugar gradually develop.  Lots of barley in the finish.  Limes, sugar, a touch of vanilla.  Still sturdy.

This appeals to a specific palate.  If those tasting notes sound good to you, then this is your thing.  It is my thing, but I can see this whisky either turning off or boring the hell out of someone else.  I tried Galore's Pulteney a few years back and found the same leanness.  So, I think that may be the style the bottlers were going for.  If I spy anything else from this series, I'd be happy to give it a try as well.

As for this Glendronach specifically, there are some touches of its (very-)refill casks here and there, but you're mostly getting lightly matured barley spirit.  One might even find some hints of the subtle peating that the distillery's maltsters utilize.  It's both slightly dirty and slightly pretty, and fully lovable.  Just like this blogger.

Availability - ???
Pricing - I'm guessing it would be $50-$60
Rating - 87  (but only for specific palates)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Single Malt Report: GlenDronach 14 year old Virgin Oak Finish

Though Monday's post was entitled, "A week of unsherried Glendronach," this whisky spent at least some of its life in European oak before being finished in American virgin oak, according to its makers.  Yet in the reviews I've read, almost no one ever references the European oak or sherry.  Most folks spend a lot of time focusing on the abundance of new U.S. oak.  So I had assumed that this whisky spent much of its life in lifeless multi-refill sherry casks, and I had set my expectations low since the whiskybase vox populi enjoyed Tuesday's and Wednesday's single casks much more than this official release.  Surprises were in store.

Distillery: GlenDronach
Ownership: BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd
Age: minimum 14 years
Maturation: ex-sherry European oak casks firstly, then new American oak secondly; the exact lengths of time are undisclosed
Region: Eastern Highlands (on the edge of Speyside)
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chill filtered? No
Caramel Coloring? No
(Sample purchased from Master of Malt)

Its gold color is lighter than that of this week's single casks and the 15yo Revival.  The nose holds a lot of fruit.  At first there's apple and pineapple.  Then later, apricots and maraschino cherries.  Then finally, white peach.  Meanwhile, there's a defined wood smoke note right up front that then fades away with time.  There's definitely some sherry in there, reading as toffee and prunes.  Vanilla and caramel do appear after 30 minutes.  Some sawdust and bourbon show up after 40 minutes.  Overall, it noses like it's going to be very sweet.  But luckily the palate is gentle with its sweetness.  It's really malty, though.  A soft desserty note lingers throughout; something like toffee pudding with orange zest and sea salt.  Sure there's vanilla and caramel, but they register at low-to-moderate levels.  Some oak spice picks up after 30 minutes.  It finishes with that wee puff of smoke from the nose.  A little bit of dryness and salt.  It grows sweeter and picks up more citrus with time.  The oak shows here the strongest, as split timber and caramel.

First off, this was much better than I had expected.  Serge and Ruben reference problems with the oak levels.  While I too have issues with high levels of oak in whisky, I really don't think the oakiness is too high here.  In fact I find that it compliments the malt well.  I'll take John Hansell's side in this instance.  And I really enjoy the bundles of fruit in the nose.

The nose shines the brightest with the fruit, oak, and sherry mingling well together.  The palate is decent and mild.  (One of the Malt Maniacs says that it tastes too malty.  Too malty?  You're a Malt Maniac, right?)  Meanwhile the finish is the one place where the oak almost goes overboard.  And yes, there definitely is some sherry in the mix, appearing mostly in the nose.

GlenDronach released this whisky in July of 2010.  Now it's nearly gone.  I have a feeling that the lack of support from the whisky gods for this particular wood finish may have limited its sales which in turn limited the distillery's desire to risk more of their sherry casks for additional batches of this release.  And that's a shame.  While I don't think it can beat most of their sherried range -- I would take it over the 12 year old Original, though -- it's a good whisky, and considerably better than most of today's oak heavy whiskies which don't even cop to the oak tech involved in their construction.  I'd consider buying a bottle of this if I found it at the very low end of its price range.

Availability - Maybe a couple dozen retailers worldwide
Pricing - $75-$85 US; $55-$75 Europe (w/VAT)
Rating - 86

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Single Malt Report: GlenDronach 10 year old 2002 Single Virgin Oak Hogshead #4530

Yes, what you see here is an actual bottle.  I bought this as a birthday present for myself two years ago.  I saw it at a The Bonding Dram and said "Oooooo.  Woooooo?"  It sat patiently in my Whisky Closet for about a year and a half as I tried to find an opportunity to do a Glendronach series.  With its new oak cask, I figured it could be bourbon-ish thus might be better for the Spring or Summer.  Now it's Spring and now I'm doing a Glendronach series.

Like yesterday's single cask I have no idea if this one spent its entire existence in new oak, thanks to the revelation that GlenDronach has been known to rerack its so-called single casks into different types of casks and not divulge this information.  (I again point you to MAO's excellent Glendronach articles.)  But like yesterday's single cask, I wouldn't be surprised if it did spend all or most of its time in the listed virgin oak hogshead.

Distillery: GlenDronach
Ownership: BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd
Age: 10 years (June 2002- October 2012)
Maturation: Virgin Oak Hogshead
Region: Eastern Highlands (on the edge of Speyside)
Alcohol by Volume: 57.1%
Cask: 4530 (selected by The Nectar Belgium)
Limited bottling: 298

When I first opened the bottle, the whisky was REALLY sweet, like a bourbon+scotch liqueur.  It was a bit much for my palate, but luckily the liquid calmed down after a month.  These notes come from a little above the halfway point in the bottle, about two months after it was opened.

Its color is dark gold, darker than yesterday's 8yo, like an older barrel strength bourbon.  Right up front I find three major notes in the nose: Corn syrup, cotton t-shirts, and sawdust.  There's much less ginger than in the 8yo.  With about 20 minutes of airing out, the nose broadens.  Wheated bourbon (like Maker's but better), clover honey, root beer, milk, and something meaty.  After a half hour it's all bourbon: vanilla, caramel, and baking spices. Its palate is less hot and more approachable than the 8yo.  Not exactly "scotch", but not exactly "bourbon", either.  LOTS of oak, but the malted barley still stands strong in the background.  Limes and simple syrup.  Sweet, not much complexity, but nothing going cockeyed either.  The finish has Caramel with a capital "C".  Honey in tonic water.  Wheated bourbon (like Maker's but better). Swisher Sweets and a hint of wood smoke.  Gets sweeter with time.

WITH WATER (~40-43%abv)
The nose is loaded with vanilla and caramel, reminiscent of Cow Tales and salted caramel everything.  A moderate sized note of thick toffee.  In the far back, there are notes of roasted grains and phenols, but one needs binoculars to find them.  Nose binoculars.  The palate leads with some grassy malt with a massive layer of caramel and vanilla on top.  Small notes of cayenne pepper and tart citrus later expand with time.  The finish is sweet and grassy, with lime juice and a spicy zip.

Scottish bourbon.  I know I'm not the first to state that conclusion, but it kinda fits.  This cask is totally inoffensive (unless American oak offends you) and not complex, but impossible to hate as a dessert whisky.  If you have a bottle, I recommend airing it out a bit, otherwise you'll find pours from mid-bottle better than those from the top.

Unlike yesterday's 8 year old single new oak cask, this whisky never seems to be out of control nor a mess nor a slog nor a total oddity.  I would easily recommend this one over the other, whether the improvement is due to the two extra years or if it was just a better cask.  It does seem to be a limited experiment (which is why I bought it), and I doubt they'd actually do an all-virgin-oak release as its own regular expression.  But as far as whisky experiments go, it ain't bad.

Availability - Auctions?
Pricing - I bought it for €59 (€49 w/o VAT, cheapest 'Dronach single cask ever?)
Rating - 83
[NOTE: Please see my September follow-up review. This whisky became considerably worse with time.]

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Single Malt Report: GlenDronach 8 year old 2002 Single Virgin Oak Hogshead #4525

Sorry for the crummy photo. The label was almost unreadable, thus effects were required.
Here's the first of two GlenDronach single virgin oak hoggie reviews.  Per Whiskybase, all or most of the casks numbered in the 4500s, filled in 2002, were virgin oak hogsheads.  This one was "Specially Bottled" for the whisky festival in Gent in 2011.  My sample was purchased at whiskysamples.eu a couple years ago.  More on this bottling after the tasting notes...

Distillery: GlenDronach
Ownership: BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd
Age: 8 years (June 2002- January 2011)
Maturation: Virgin Oak Hogshead
Region: Eastern Highlands (on the edge of Speyside)
Alcohol by Volume: 58.8%
Cask: 4525
Limited bottling: 325

Its color is dark gold. On the nose......Wow, ginger!  So much ginger.  Then that's topped by a blast of caramel and wood pulp.  Then oats with Worcester sauce.  With time, the cereal note strengthens.  Time also allows for the development of more floral esters (and banana).  It becomes almost rummy.  The palate is quite hot.  Right up front are the floral esters, followed by apricots, fresh and dried.  Lots of sugar (white and brown) and tartness.  Candied lemon peel.  A super bitter wasabi note suddenly appears after 20+ minutes, alongside brown rice.  The candied lemon peel note floats alongside the big bitterness in the finish.  Though it gets sweeter with time, there's also a note of something between bark and cardboard.

WITH WATER (~40-43%abv)
The nose is packed with oats, caramel, and brown sugar. Hot breakfast!  Less ginger.  More yeast and wood pulp.  Small notes of banana and peach purees.  After additional time in the glass, the whisky develops an earthy/mossy note.  The palate is not hot, thankfully.  Some bitterness remains, but a sugary sweetness envelops everything.  Some toasted things like oak and grains.  With additional time it releases larger notes of yeast and hay.  The palate's big sweetness remains in the finish.  Here it plays out as orange candies and caramel candies.  It's still quite big, though I'm not sure if that's a good thing because after a while a bitter aftertaste takes over as an under-ripe banana note trails behind.

Bizarre.  Beneath all the oak the whisky seems even younger than the 8 year old age statement......and more rummish than Scottish.  Meanwhile, when neat, it feels even hotter than the ABV.  Then once water is added it becomes an entirely different whisky.  Nothing about it ever seems in balance, but because it delivers plenty of entertainment value, I can't call it terrible.  I can't really say it's good either.

Ultimately, I'm perplexed by why this cask was selected (by the distillery itself?) for the Gent Festival.  It seems like an experiment that went awry to the point that it couldn't be blended away.  I can confirm this though: There were no sherry casks compromised in the making of this single malt.

Availability - Auctions?
Pricing - ???
Rating - 75

Monday, June 8, 2015

Glendronach? Glendronach. A week of unsherried Glendronach.

Since Billy Walker & Co. (also known as BenRiach Distillery Company Ltd.) took over the distillery, revamped their regular range, and began releasing single casks, Glendronach has won over Sheeple and assertive WhiskyDicks alike.  And that's a feat.

They have us all so enamored with their product that nary a fuss was made when My Annoying Opinions revealed Glendronach may be misleading consumers on their "single cask" labels.  The same anoraks who decry the loss of age statements, the addition of chill filtration, caramel colorant, and the designated hitter did not even burp a gripe out over the fact that these single casks may not actually be single casks since these whiskies likely had other undisclosed maturations in other casks.  The connotation of "single cask" has been thrown into question, and possibly the denotation as well.   I have little doubt that if Diageo were the perpetrators, then there would be a larger outcry.  But everyone's still cool with Glendronach.  And that's a feat.

On a more personal level, Glendronach helped bring me back around to enjoying sherry cask matured whisky.  Thanks to the bevy of sherry-finished whiskies on the market (with Glenmorangie Lasanta being the biggest culprit) my palate became averse to all things sherry+whisky for a couple years.  But a little GlenDronach Revival can set a person right, as can those aforementioned single ex-oloroso casks.  A third feat.

Whatever BenRiach Co. and/or Allied (the previous owners) are doing with their sherry casks, it has been working admirably.  But what about Glendronach whisky that is matured in something other than the rich sherry casks that tend to define the distillery?  The official range has a set of "Wood Finishes": Sauternes (12yo), Virgin Oak (14yo), Moscatel (14yo), Marsala (18yo), and Tawny Port (18yo).  While the website says these spent their first years in European oak, reviews of the products usually don't mention sherry characteristics.  Add in the fact that their coloring is very light, and one may hypothesize refill-refill-refill European oak casks were responsible.

I wanted to explore this further.  Since wine finishes hold little interest for me and I do like well utilized US oak, I only plucked a sample of the Virgin Oak finish.  Then I found a sample of a "Virgin Oak" single cask.  Then I found an entire bottle of a "Virgin Oak" single cask for my own mischief.  Finally with a weird bit of luck, I found a sherry-free independent Glendronach at a local whisky shop.

So really what you're going to see from me this week is a bunch of Glendronachs that spent a lot of their lives in sherry-free American oak.  Some of these whiskies will still be loaded with tannins, but not all of them, so perhaps I'll be able to get a glimpse of the spirit outside its home habitat.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Notes from a Tasting: Escape to Las Vegas 2015

I've lost track how many times I've been to Las Vegas.  More than 20 times, probably fewer than 25.  Usually my brother is my coconspirator.  He organized my bachelor's party in LV in 2010.  Though we had an awesome ridiculous time there, it was then that I began to learn the time limits to a Vegas getaway.  On subsequent trips, it has become even clearer.  Two nights are perfect.  One night is not enough.  Three nights are wearying, and it's not just one's own gambling and drinking that run its course.  Here's out how it goes:

Night 1 - Woohoo!  You're tired from the flight/drive but by utilizing alcohol and caffeine, you'll just blast through!  Due to exhaustion and sensory overload, you don't really notice much about your surroundings except for the hot people and weird people.

Day/Night 2 - If you didn't lose all of your money on Night 1, you stay sober enough to do some relatively responsible gambling.  Once you or one of your crew have a good night at the tables, you then stay out stupidly late.

Day 3 - You are hungover.  You eat too much at a breakfast buffet, swearing off those feeding troughs for life, again.  You decide to wander The Strip to see the new casinos.  There are no old casinos.  You begin to notice that Americans no longer make up the majority of the tourists here.  But everyone, regardless of nationality, seems to have the same empty look on his and her faces.

Night 3 - Dinner at one of the new, decent, possibly overpriced restaurants.  You're trying not to lose any more money, so maybe you'll just get plastered instead.  But after two beers, it becomes laborious.  So you go back to wandering and people watching.  Gradually the emotional and sensory weight of tens of thousands of people submitting to depression-fueled destruction begins to hollow out your soul.

This March, I stayed in Vegas for four nights.  That was a lot.  Especially with my infant daughter, Mathilda, strapped to me.  My wife had an eleven day (dear god) conference at City Center.  Mathilda and I tagged along for the first third.  We ate well, which is one of the upsides of Vegas.  Dave Chappelle arrived at the hotel just as we did, then I saw him again later at Starbucks.  So that was cool.  My daughter and I walked The Strip a bit.  I ogled the new stuff, mourned the loss of the old stuff, as I'm sure she did as well.

I limited myself to one night of gambling.  After I won a not insignificant amount of money via video poker, I immediately exited the casino (as I always do after winning).  What was I to do with my winnings?  Save it for Japan!  This cash would help make that voyage more comfortable.  But I had to do something now to celebrate.  So, I did what I did the last time I won well there: go to Craftsteak and get some whisky that I couldn't otherwise afford...

Tending bar was Larry, the same friendly chap who was there the last time I'd stopped by to spend my winnings, two years ago.  He handed me a tablet with an interactive menu app.  The first thing I noticed was Craftsteak's selection, while still one of the best in the city, is nowhere near as extensive as it used to be.  They used to have loads of incredible indies and dead distillery malts.  There were tons of "craft" bourbons and plenty of officially bottled scotches on their shelves.  They also still don't have whisky glasses, which is a little weird, so I used a bulbous wine glass instead.  Larry brought over a whole bunch of bottles to the table because I'm a pain in the ass (don't worry, I tipped him well) and also because almost no one else was at the bar.  I almost dropped a mint, a pile, a boatload on a glass of Highland Park 30, but at the last minute I called an audible and spent the same amount of cash on these two instead:

Tomatin 34 year old 1976 Duncan Taylor "The Octave" cask 682039, 46.3%abv
Color - Dark gold, but then again the bar's lighting was dark gold
Nose - Biscotti with Nutella.  Mint chip ice cream.  Milk chocolate.  There was also an herbal + malt note still lingering after all these years.
Palate - Loads of cayenne pepper.  A groovy herbal bitterness.  Seared beef with mango and peaches.  The oak can't cover up that fruitiness.  Maybe some soil.
Finish - Tropical fruit, salt, dried blueberries and currants.

Thoughts and things: This was my first Tomatin 1976.  If one believes in whisky vintages then this is considered one of the great ones.  Though I have many doubts about the whole vintage theory (as I've previously stated many times), I still had my expectations high.  So while this was very good whisky, it wasn't tremendous or moan inducing.  I'm wondering if the tiny octave cask had something to do with it.  Anyway the finish, while colorful, was sort of brief.  The nose was nice, but I've found those same notes in younger and cheaper Glenfarclas.  The palate was excellent though, and easily the best part.  If only the other parts could have matched it!  I am thankful for the opportunity to have tried this.  I believe that had I sampled this blindly, I may have had a higher opinion of the overall package.
Grade range:  B/B+

Glenlivet 21 year old Gordon & MacPhail, 43%abv
Color - Medium gold
Nose - Straightforward.  Dusty grains, a little bit of perfume, and lots of apricot.
Palate - Lightly creamy, mostly fruity spirit notes.  Orange, tangerines, peach candy, elderflower syrup.  A moderate amount of vanilla.
Finish - Sweet, but also crisp and tart.  The vanilla, elderflower, and peach remains.

Thoughts and things: There was a motive behind this selection: I've been window-shopping this bottle for over a year.  According to Whiskybase, its average price is $40 cheaper than that of the official (and much more prevalent) 21 year old.  Plus the pour price was reasonable by LA/LV standards.  And......I saved myself $130+ because I don't need to buy a whole bottle now.  The whisky itself is good.  I have no qualms about its quality.  Probably right smack dab in the middle of Grade B Land.  It's simple, easy drinking, without any major flaws.  Exactly what I'd desire in the (shrinking) $40-$60 range.  But it's not in that price range, which is a bummer.  Still, it was a perfectly satisfying one time thing.  And now I can walk away and lust after another pretty thing.
Grade range: B

My indulgences ended here.  A third drink would likely have been wasted on my tired senses, and that money could be better spent in Japan (and it was).  I walked back to the hotel elated and peaceful, for just a moment.  One is allowed so few of those moments as a new parent.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Knockandone: Knockando 21 year old 1962 Extra Old Reserve (Justerini & Brooks, Dateo Import)

Photo, from LAWS, may or may not
be of the actual bottle reviewed here. 
Our Knockando journey which started in 1999 now ends in 1962.  1962 was the year the whisky in the bottle was distilled, back when Knockando utilized its own floor maltings, back when they were owned by International Distillers & Vintners.  It was bottled in 1984, long after the maltings were closed and Grand Metropolitan (future Diageo) had taken over.  According to whiskybase, the "Extra Old Reserve" bottlings had started just a few years earlier, joining the 12 year old in the distillery's single malt range.  Like the 12yos, this one has its vintage year listed, as well as the bottling year.  Unique to the range, though, was the fancier looking square decanter, which is a pain in the ass to pour from.

Distillery: Knockando
Ownership at time of bottling: Grand Metropolitan (via Justerini & Brooks)
Importer: Dateo
Type: Single Malt
Region: Speyside (Central)
Age: 21 years
Distilled: 1962
Bottled: 1984
Maturation: dunno, but there are probably ex-sherry casks in the mix
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
(Sample purchased from LA Scotch Club)

The color is medium gold, darker than the previous four whiskies from this series, and less orange than the 1999.  The first thing I notice in the nose is the peat!  A definite medium level peating.  Then grains like barley and corn.  Then orange oil termite treatment in a moldy basement.  In a good way.  Sheep (yep, sheep), followed by caramel and basil leaves.  After 20+ minutes in the glass, a note of refill sherry casks comes along.  Think hot cocoa and toffee, or perhaps a Heath Bar.  The sherry and peat smoke grow with additional time.  The oily-textured palate is grassy and mossy with a medium sweetness.  Mild sherry and the basement note, again.  Toffee pudding with a glass of Campari.  Moments of salt and mango.  With time, a hint of something darker and industrial arises, followed by a hint of something brighter, like citrus peels.  The finsh is mild and barley-ish with toffee and orange peel.  Hints of hard cheese, black pepper, and peach.  A lemon/grapefruit tartness.

As the nose and palate sizzled, this was shaping up to be a 90+ point whisky, but then the finish fizzled.  Andy, who furnished the bottle, wondered if it felt a bit too watered down at this ABV.  While I didn't find that problem on the nose and palate, it may explain the weakish finale.  On the bright side of things -- and things are almost totally bright with this whisky -- the peating works wonders in the nose, as do the sherry casks.  Both are present and contribute well to the whole without overtaking the experience.  The palate has a slight edge to it that raises it above an average decent Speysider.

Of the six Knockandos from this series, this 21yo 1962 and the 12yo 1966 were my favorites.  There wasn't a stinker in the bunch.  Each was slightly different, thanks to variables like cask types, barley sources, Old Bottle Effect levels, and (maybe) vintage variation.  I have been told the sherry cask Knockandos can be dynamite, and I'm sure this 1962 hinted as much.  Otherwise, I enjoyed the cask selection in these whiskies, and admire the blending work required to produce a good single malt.  Thank you to Cobo, Florin, and LASC for making these two Knockando weeks possible.

Availability - Auctions
Pricing - ???
Rating - 88

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Knockando The Time Warp Again! Knockando 12 year old 1965 (OB) Justerini & Brooks Chandon Import

While I don't buy into most of the talk about distilleries' magical vintages (due to all of the variables involved in the creation of a single malt), these old official Knockandos do provide the potential for a more valid discussion.  Their barley was malted in the same place and the barrels matured in the same warehouse.  It's likely that the yeast remained the same and the fermentation and distillation times did as well.  While there are other factors at play, there should be wider interest amongst some of the whisky gods to do further studies on the Knockando floor-malting-era vintages.  While I am not a whisky god, I am going to drink some more Knockando...

Yesterday, I wrote about the birth of the Knockando single malts via Grand Metropolitan and Justerini & Brooks.  I also reviewed a very good 12 year old official Knockando from 1966.  And today, here is one from 1965.  As seen with its younger mate:

Thanks again to Cobo for the sample and the photo!  Thank you for the opportunity to match these two up at the same tasting.

Distillery: Knockando
Ownership at time of bottling: Grand Metropolitan (via Justerini & Brooks)
Importer: Chandon
Type: Single Malt
Region: Speyside (Central)
Age: 12 years
Distilled: 1965
Bottled: 1977
Maturation: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 43%

Its color is light gold, again.  This time the nose starts off with pineapple, lemon peel, green apples, and ginger tea.  There's a little bit of barley in here, salted caramels, and also some of the lemongrass I'd noticed in the 1966.  But it has a bit of an old-bottle-style moldy basement note too.  Some more oak slips in with time, but so does a tropical fruit note.  Ah, the palate has little bit of smoke to it, reminiscent of wood smoke, floating mid-ground.  There's confectioner's sugar, bubblegum, and a light bitterness up front.  It gets a little drier with time, picks up some lime and a simple sweet custard.  Slightly musty.  Pepper in the back of the throat.  The musty moldy basement note lingers into the finish.  I get an herbal bitterness at first, but then it becomes a little sweeter and more citric.  Hints of the bubblegum and confectioner's sugar.  It holds onto the (good) bitterness and tartness throughout.

A different whisky than the 1966.  The nose, while bolder, is less glamorous.  The palate is sweeter and smokier and the finish bitterer.  The musty note, absent from the '66, shows up in various places in the '65.  I happen to like that sort of thing, but others may not.

Overall, I like the '66 more with its lovely nose and lean sturdy palate.  But really if you find either of these, whether at an auction or some magical mysterious retailer, they'll probably be priced well considering their historical value. And they taste pretty good too, if you rightly choose to open the bottle.

Availability - Auctions
Pricing - not as expensive as most other distilleries from this era
Rating - 85